After the smashing success of the Viking Axe at the inaugural competition, Steel Founders’ Society of America (SFSA) is proud to announce the second Cast in Steel Competition for the 2019-2020 school year. This competition, sponsored by the SFSA Foundation, is focused on the use of modern casting tools such as computer modeling, alloy development and selection, and additive manufacturing; to design and produce a functioning cast Bowie Knife. Each entry shall include the team’s Bowie Knife to be tested and a video and technical report documenting the design and manufacturing process. Each Bowie Knife must have a blade at least 9 inches and not to exceed 14 inches, an integrally cast tang and guard, and a cast pommel that does not have to be integrally cast.

The knife casting should utilize the casting process to the fullest extent possible to get the best quality, unique features and near net shape. Each entry will be eligible for three awards: the best design and process as presented in the technical report, the best video on the project not to exceed 5 minutes, and the best at the performance evaluation.

The technical reports and video entries will be judged by Master Founders and Lifetime SFSA members. The performance evaluation will include chopping and sharpness tests similar to those seen in the History Channel program, Forged in Fire. Due to the unusual circumstances this year, the evaluation which was to be held be on April 20, 2020 in Cleveland, OH prior to the AFS MetalCasting Congress will be rescheduled at another location. Currently, plans are to hold the evaluation in Chicago in early Summer.


Teams for competing in the Cast in Steel competition must include:

  • Two to five university students
  • A Faculty advisor
  • A commercial steel foundry (SFSA will recruit for interested teams)


The project for this competition is a Bowie Knife

  • A functioning Bowie Knife* is to be provided for testing.
    • Knife must have: 9 to 14-inch blade, an integrally cast tang and guard, and a cast pommel that does not have to be integrally cast
  • A description of the product features including the historical design that qualifies it as a Bowie Knife
  • Pictures of the casting after shake-out, the casting with the gates and risers removed, and the finished blade/tang/guard so the creative use of the casting process can be evaluated.
  • A technical report* describing the design and production which can include:
    • Rationale behind the design
    • Alloy and processing to get properties
    • Production processing used
    • Description of the manufacturing
    • Test results for the quality and properties
    • Modeling for process and performance
  • A video* of the project of not more than 5 minutes

*SFSA will own all submitted data package and Bowie knife.

*Teams may submit either a report, video, or knife, or all three.


  • Proposed teams and preliminary plan due Dec 31, 2019. Download the registration form and submit to Diana David,

  • Submitted reports, video, and Bowie knife due June 12, 2020.
    • Send the report and video to Diana David,
    • Ship the Bowie knife to SFSA:
      Attn: Raymond Monroe
      5708 Aspen Ct
      Crystal Lake, IL 60014-3905
  • Performance testing
    • Planned for the first week in July, specific dates and schedules to be determined.
    • Will take place at Ashgrove Forge in Virginia, to be performed by SFSA staff and video recorded.


  • Competition will be judged by panel of steel experts selected by SFSA


  • Technical Report: $500/student
  • Video: $500/student
  • Performance: $500/student
  • Special recognition: $200

Can one school form more than one team?

What would be the maximum number of students in a team?

Will the knives be cast at a commercial steel foundry, or will we be casting them in-house?
You are free to cast them either in-house or at a partner steel foundry.

If we have a foundry in our university, do we still need to have a foundry partner?
Yes, even if your team plans to cast the Bowie knife at your university foundry, you still need to work with a foundry. All teams are required to have a foundry partner for technical guidance and support.

Will we be expected to sharpen the knives in-house?
Yes, we are trying to evaluate their performance like the show, Forged in Fire.

Is there a physical competition, or will we be shipping the knives?
You will ship the knife to us (SFSA). We will have the judging and competition in Cleveland, OH on April 21-23, 2020 in conjunction with AFS MetalCasting Congress. SFSA will bring all the submitted Bowie knives to Cleveland.

The date and location for the judging and competition have not been determined yet. We will update all teams when we have that information. We are tentatively planning for early Summer in Chicago.

We would like to know if there are any testing parameters that have been decided upon.. looking at the chopping and cutting tests. Are there any details that you can offer?
Short answer: no. Longer answer: we will be organizing tests that are appropriate for a bowie knife. Like Forged in Fire, it will likely be a test of durability and strength. Bowie knives are utility tools so chopping, slicing, puncturing, etc. are all expected uses for the knife and may be a part of the test.

When is the deadline for shipping the knives?
Knives should be postmarked by April 3, 2020.

Currently we're asking teams to ship us their knives, reports and video by June 12, 2020 due to school closings and travel restrictions. We will update all teams as soon as we have new information if anything changes.

What are the deciding factors for a winning entry?
We are planning to offer 3 top prizes, one on the performance and two on the engineering: one based on the technical report and one based on the video.

Can the same team win multiple main prizes?

Will the knives be returned to us after the competition?
No, all submitted knives will be owned by SFSA and will be used for promotional purposes for future competition.

What are you looking for in the preliminary plan?
The preliminary plan will not be judged so there are no requirements on what should be in it. This is just so we have an idea of what you are planning to do, which foundry you're working with, etc. This does not have to be an extensive report. It can be a 1-page rough outline or it can just be a short paragraph emailed to

I realize the rules allow any process to be used but clearly investment casting will deliver an aesthetically better result. Do the judges consider this manufacturing choice when comparing the different submitted knives?
The choice of manufacturing process is taken into consideration when the judges evaluate the technical report. It does not have to be an investment casting. No process will be given a higher "score" than another; the teams just have to provide enough technical rationale for their design and process choice.

Are there any restrictions on which materials can be used? Handle/grip materials, blade steel, etc?
The blade just need to be cast in steel, any grades can be used. No other restrictions on materials.

We just wanted to clarify that the blade of the knife is 9”-14”, not including the tang.
Yes, just the blade.

If it is the blade length that is 9-14 inches, how will it be measured? From tip to guard? Or just the length on the sharpened blade?
Length from tip to guard.

Can I utilize another process besides casting to make a composite structure (cast material + non-cast material)?
Yes as long as the team still creatively uses the casting process to create this composite material.

Are there any restrictions on processes used to finish the blade, such as heat treating, coatings, assembly methods, etc.? For instance, can the cast pommel be welded to the tang, or is it required to be threaded or press fit?
No restrictions but the evaluation of the knives would consider how the team creatively used the casting process to make their Bowie Knife.

Does the pommel need to be cast out of steel, or can it be a different material?
The pommel can be cast out of a different metal.

The official student team member limit is 5. How closed is the project supposed to be regarding outside help? Would it be acceptable to enlist the help of additional students or faculty with relevant experience as consultants or advisors?
Contribution of other students, consultants, advisors and the use of as many resources available is encouraged.

The rules mention shipping dates for the knife and relevant materials. Are the teams allowed to be present for the testing procedure? (We assume so based on the videos.)
Yes, we want students to attend the performance testing. Last year, we let the students swing their own axe.

The video presentation requirements are not mentioned much in the guidelines. Is there a particular format or content expectation for the video?
No specific format but the video should show how the knife was made. Check out the video submitted by Kent State for Cast In Steel 2018/2019 (video link is in their technical report).

Submit your question to

Award winners

  • Main Awards
    • Best Performance - Instituto Technológico de Morelia
    • Best Engineering Design - Texas State University

  • Special Awards
    • (Runners up) Engineering Design - Cal Poly-Pomona Team#1 & Penn State-Behrend
    • Most Captivating Design - Pittsburg State
    • Most Likely To Succeed - University of South Alabama
    • Most Historically Accurate - Mississippi State
    • Best Axe Swinger - Jenni Brown from University of Alabama at Birmingham

Technical Reports

Tap school name to view report

Report Axe Testing & expert commentary
Instituto Technológico de Morelia
Winner - Best Performance
Texas State University
Winner - Best Engineering Design
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
Team 1 (Investment)
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
Team 2 (Sand)
Georgia Southern University
Team 1 (Liggett)
Georgia Southern University
Team 2 (Lewis)
Iowa State University
Team 1 (Sand)
Iowa State University
Team 2 (Investment)
Kent State University
Michigan Technological University
Mississippi State University
Pittsburg State University
Penn State
Purdue University
University of South Alabama
University of Alabama at Birmingham
University of Northern Iowa
Team 1 (Investment)
University of Northern Iowa
Team 2 (Sand)
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Youngstown State University